Critical Elections: British Parties and Voters in Long-Term Perspective


Edited by: Geoffrey Evans & Pippa Norris

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    In common with most large-scale projects this book has incurred many debts – mintellectual, administrative and financial – upon the way. The British Election Study 1997 was conducted by the Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends (CREST). CREST is an ESRC Research Centre linking Social and Community Planning Research (SCPR) and Nuffield College, Oxford, in conjunction with Pippa Norris (Harvard University). The 1997 British Election Cross-section Survey was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC Grant Number H552/255/003) and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts. The survey was directed by Anthony Heath, Roger Jowell, John Curtice and Pippa Norris and it would not have been possible without the help of Geoffrey Evans and Bridget Taylor at Nuffield College, Katarina Thomson, Lindsay Brook and Alison Park at SCPR, and Ann Mair at Strathclyde University. The book also draws on the 1997 Ethnic Minority Survey conducted by CREST with Shamit Saggar (Queen Mary and Westfield College, London) with funding from the ESRC (R000 222 123) and the Commission for Racial Equality. Similarly chapters utilize the 1997 Scottish Election Study conducted by CREST in collaboration with David McCrone (University of Edinburgh) and colleagues, funded by the ESRC (H552/225/004), and the British Representation Study 1997, conducted by Pippa Norris and colleagues, administered by the University of East Anglia, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation. We would also like to thank all the fieldwork interviewers and all the respondents who co-operated with the 1997 survey, and indeed to all the directors of the series of BES studies, one of the longest continuous series of post-election studies available anywhere in the world. Details about the BES series, and in particular the related studies carried out in 1997, are provided in the Technical Appendix.

    We would also like to acknowledge the assistance of Mandy Roberts at Nuffield College with preparation of the final manuscript and support from colleagues at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government. This book is a companion volume to three closely related studies focusing on different aspects of electoral change: On Message: Communicating the Campaign by Pippa Norris, John Curtice, David Sanders, Margaret Scammell and Holli Semetko (London: Sage, 1999), The Scottish Electorate by Alice Brown, David McCrone, Lindsay Paterson and Paula Surridge (London: Macmillan, 1998) and New Labour and the Future of the Left by Anthony Heath et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

    Lastly our intellectual debts are many and varied. We would particularly like to acknowledge the support of Jean Blondel, the members of ESRC's Election Study Management Advisory Committee (ESMAC) and all colleagues involved in the consultative process for the design of the 1997 BES. We greatly appreciated the stimulus and critical advice we received from colleagues who attended the book conference in May 1997, the generous hospitality of the Warden and Fellows of Nuffield College, Oxford, and the financial support of Sage Publications. As well as the contributors, the conference included Ron Amman (ESRC), Ole Borre (Aarhus University), David Butler (Exeter College, Oxford), Bruno Cautres (Maison Francaise), Sir David Cox (Nuffield College, Oxford), Stephen Fisher (Nuffield College, Oxford), Ron Johnston (University of Bristol), Richard Johnston (University of British Columbia), Peter Kellner (The Observer/Evening Standard), Anthony King (University of Essex), Peter Lynn (SCPR/CREST), Iain McLean (Nuffield College, Oxford), Nelson Polsby (University of California, Berkeley), Byron Shafer (Nuffield College, Oxford), Stephen Struthers (ESRC), Marc Swyngedouw (Leuven), Dafydd Trystan (University of Wales, Aberystwyth), Alan Ware (Worcester College, Oxford) and Richard Wyn Jones (University of Wales, Aberystwyth). We greatly benefited from all the comments and feedback generated by colleagues at the meeting. Lastly the book is dedicated to two remarkable colleagues without whom the BES series would not have existed. Donald E. Stokes pioneered the behavioural study of voting and elections in the USA and, with David Butler, initiated and maintained the BES surveys from 1963 to 1970. Bo Särlvik inherited this mantle, along with colleagues at Essex University, when the BES transferred there for the three general elections from 1974 to 1979. This book is a memorial to their legacy.

    November 1998

    Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and Nuffield College, Oxford.

    Notes on Contributors

    Alice Brown is Professor of Politics at the University of Edinburgh. Her research interests include Scottish politics, women and politics and economic policy. She is co-author with David McCrone and Lindsay Paterson of Politics and Society in Scotland (1998) and co-author with David McCrone, Lindsay Paterson and Paula Surridge of The Scottish Electorate (1998). She is Co-Director with David McCrone of the Governance of Scotland Forum at the University of Edinburgh; and a member of the Scottish Office cross-party consultative steering group which will report to the Secretary of State for Scotland on the standing orders and procedures for the new Scottish Parliament.

    Ian Budge is Professor of Politics at the University of Essex. His books include Voting and Party Competition (1977) [with Dennis Farlie]; Ideology Strategy and Party Change (1987) [co-edited with David Robertson and Derek Hearl]; Parties, Policies and Democracy (1994) [with Hans-Dieter Klingemann and Richard Hofferbert]; and The New British Politics (1998) [with Ivor Crewe, David McKay and Ken Newton].

    Ivor Crewe is Vice Chancellor and Professor of Government at the University of Essex. He was Co-Director of the British Election Study programme from 1973 to 1981. Recent publications include The British Electorate 1963–1992 (1995) [with Anthony Fox and Neil Day]; SDP: The Birth, Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party 1981–1987 (1995) [with Anthony King]; The New British Politics (1998) [with Ian Budge, David McKay and Kenneth Newton]; and Political Communications: Why Labour Won the 1997 Election (1998) [co-edited with John Bartle and Brian Gosschalk]. His current research interests are the impact of party leader images on the vote and the politics of higher education in Britain.

    John Curtice is Deputy Director of CREST, and Professor of Politics and Director of the Social Statistics Laboratory at the University of Strathclyde. His publications include How Britain Votes (1985, with Anthony Heath and Roger Jowell); Understanding Political Change (1991, with Anthony Heath and others); Labour's Last Chance? (1994, co-edited) and On Message (1999, with Pippa Norris and others). He has been a co-editor of SCPR's British Social Attitudes series since 1994 and is a regular consultant and commentator on electoral matters for the media.

    Geoffrey Evans is Faculty Fellow, Nuffield College. He has been a member of the British Election Studies team since 1987 and is a consultant with CREST. He is the author of many articles on electoral behaviour, political sociology and democratization. Other publications include Understanding Political Change (1991, with CREST colleagues) and The End of Class Politics? (forthcoming). He is currently completing The Formation of Political Cleavages in Post-Communist Democracies (with Stephen Whitefield; forthcoming).

    David M. Farrell is Senior Jean Monnet Lecturer in European Politics at the University of Manchester. Co-editor of Party Politics, his recent books include Comparing Electoral Systems (1998) and Party Discipline and Parliamentary Government (co-editor, 1999). Dr Farrell has published widely on parties, campaigning and electoral systems.

    Mark Franklin is the John R. Reitemeyer Professor of Political Science at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. He was previously Moores Professor at the University of Houston after having spent 20 years at the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of The Decline of Class Voting in Britain (1985) and co-author of Electoral Change (1992). His recent publications include Choosing Europe? The European Electorate and National Politics in the Face of Union (1996) [with Cees van der Eijk and others] and articles about voting in European elections, referendum votes and turnout in national elections around the world.

    Anthony Heath is Professor of Sociology at the University of Oxford, Official Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, and Co-Director of CREST. His publications include How Britain Votes (1985, with Roger Jowell and John Curtice); Understanding Political Change (1991, with CREST colleagues); and Labour's Last Chance, (1994, co-edited), along with recent articles in journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, the British Journal of Political Science and the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society.

    Christina Hughes is a doctoral candidate at the University of Houston. Her main areas of interest are comparative voting behaviour and comparative parties. She plans to write her dissertation about the effects of social cross-pressures on voting behavior using a cross-national analysis in order to control for institutional effects.

    David McCrone is Professor of Sociology, and Convener of the Unit for the Study of Government in Scotland. He is also Co-Director, with Alice Brown, of the University of Edinburgh's Governance of Scotland Forum. Recent books include The Scottish Electorate (1998); The Sociology of Nationalism (1998); Politics and Society in Scotland (1998) [with Alice Brown and Lindsay Paterson]; Scotland – the Brand: The Making of Scottish Heritage (1995); and Understanding Scotland: The Sociology of a Stateless Nation (1992). He is Co-Director of the ESRC-funded Scottish Election Study 1997. David McCrone is a member of the expert panel on procedures and standing orders for the Scottish Parliament.

    Pippa Norris is Associate Director (Research) at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Recent books include On Message (1999, with John Curtice, David Sanders, Margaret Scammell and Holli Semetko); Critical Citizens (1999); Elections and Voting Behaviour (1998); Britain Votes 1997 (1997); and Electoral Change Since 1945 (1997). She was Co-Director of the 1997 British Election Study and co-edits The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics.

    Alison Park is a Research Director at Social and Community Planning Research and a co-editor of the British Social Attitudes Report series. She worked on the 1997 British Election Study and the 1997 Scottish and Welsh Referendum Studies. Recent publications include ‘Thatcher's children?’ in the 14th British Social Attitudes Report (1997, with Anthony Heath); ‘Teenagers and their politics’ (1995) in the 12th British Social Attitudes Report; and Young People, Politics and Citizenship: A Disengaged Generation (1998, with Roger Jowell).

    Lindsay Paterson is Professor of Educational Policy at Edinburgh University. He has published on many aspects of Scottish politics and the sociology of education. His books include A Diverse Assembly: The Debate on a Scottish Parliament (1998) and The Autonomy of Modern Scotland (1994). He is Vice-Convener of the Unit for the Study of Government in Scotland, and edits its quarterly journal, Scottish Affairs.

    Clive Payne is Director of the Computing and Research Support Unit, Social Studies Faculty, University of Oxford and a Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford. He has published widely on statistical modelling in sociology, politics and social policy. He has been a consultant to the BBC on election-night forecasting since 1969. He is co-editor of Statistics in Society, a journal of the Royal Statistical Society.

    Shamit Saggar is Senior Lecturer in Government at Queen Mary and Westfield College. His books include Race and Public Policy (1991); Race and Politics in Britain (1992); Race and British Electoral Politics (1998); and Race and Representation (forthcoming). Dr Saggar was the Director of the 1997 British Ethnic Minority Election Study. He is currently preparing a major intellectual history of racial politics in Britain and the USA.

    David Sanders is Professor of Government and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Essex. He has recently published articles on electoral forecasting and outcomes in Political Studies, Electoral Studies, Political Quarterly, Parliamentary Affairs and numerous edited volumes. He is co-editor of the British Journal of Political Science. He is co-author of On Message (1999 with Pippa Norris, John Curtice, Margaret Scammell and Holli Semetko).

    Paula Surridge is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Salford. She is currently Co-Director of the 1997 Scottish Election Study and was research assistant on the 1992 study. Her research interests are in political behaviour and stratification. Recent publications include The Scottish Electorate (1998) [with Alice Brown, David McCrone and Lindsay Paterson] and, with David McCrone, ‘National pride’ in Roger Jowell et al. (eds.) British and European Social Attitudes: How Britain Differs.

    Bridget Taylor is a Research Officer in CREST at Nuffield College, Oxford. Her publications include Scotland and Wales: Nations Again? (1999 co-edited with Katarina Thompson), Understanding Change in Social Attitudes (1996, co-edited with Katarina Thomson) and Labour's Last Chance? (1994, co-edited with CREST colleagues).

    Katarina Thomson is a Research Director at Social and Community Planning Research and a co-editor of the British Social Attitudes Report series. She worked on the 1997 British Election Study and the 1997 Scottish and Welsh Referendum Studies. Recent publications include ‘Portraying sex: the limits of tolerance’ (1996) and ‘How we view violence’ (1997) [both with Steven Barnett] in the 13th and 14th British Social Attitudes Reports, and Understanding Change in Social Attitudes (1996, co-edited with Bridget Taylor).

    Paul Webb is a Senior Lecturer in Government at Brunei University and a former Visiting Fellow in Social Sciences at Curtin University in Western Australia. The review editor of Party Politics, he is the author of Trade Unions and the British Electorate (1992) as well as numerous articles and chapters on British and European parties. He is currently writing a book on British political parties for Sage Publications and editing a comparative volume on parties in democratic societies for Oxford University Press.

  • Technical Appendix


    The British General Election Surveys (BES) constitute the longest series of academic surveys in Britain. They have taken place immediately after every general election since 1964, giving a total of 11 to date. In addition to these post-election cross-section surveys, panel surveys (in which respondents to the previous election survey were reinterviewed at the subsequent election) have been conducted between every pair of elections except 1979 and 1983. The 1992–97 Parliament was covered by the first British Election Panel Study (BEPS) in which the panel was interviewed on eight occasions starting as the 1992 BES post-election cross-section survey and concluding with a wave following the 1997 general election. A second British Election Panel Study follows from the 1997 post-election cross-section survey and the panel is planned to be interviewed on approximately eight occasions, again with the concluding wave immediately following the next general election. There have also been two non-election year surveys (in 1963 and 1969); a postal referendum study in 1975; additional or booster Scottish studies in 1974, 1979, 1992 and 1997; an additional Welsh study in 1979; a Northern Ireland election study in 1992; campaign studies in Britain in 1987, 1992 and 1996–97; a booster sample of ethnic minority members in 1997; a qualitative study in 1997; Scottish (two) and Welsh referendum studies in 1997; and a Northern Ireland referendum and election study in 1998.

    The data sets arising from these surveys, together with questionnaires and technical documentation, have been deposited at the ESRC Data Archive at the University of Essex. Summary information about the 1963–87 surveys, and further references, are provided in an Appendix to Understanding Political Change (Heath et al. 1991), and for the 1992 surveys in the Appendix to Labour's Last Chance? (Heath et al. 1994b).

    The series was originated by David Butler (Nuffield College Oxford) and Donald Stokes (University of Michigan) in 1963, who also conducted the 1964, 1966 and 1970 surveys. The series then passed to Bo Särlvik and Ivor Crewe (University of Essex) who conducted the February and October 1974 surveys, joined by David Robertson for the 1979 survey. The 1983, 1987, 1992 and 1997 surveys have been directed by Anthony Heath (Jesus then Nuffield College Oxford), Roger Jowell (Social and Community Planning Research – SCPR – London) and John Curtice (University of Liverpool then Strathclyde); in 1997 these directors were joined by Pippa Norris (Harvard University). The associated 1997 Scottish Election Study was conducted in collaboration with David McCrone (University of Edinburgh) and colleagues, and the 1997 Ethnic Minority Survey with Shamit Saggar (Queen Mary and Westfield College, London) – see below. The British Election Panel Studies and the 1997–98 Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland surveys were conducted by the Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends (CREST), a research centre funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and based jointly at SCPR and Nuffield College Oxford, directed by Anthony Heath and Roger Jowell, with John Curtice.

    The principal component of the British Election Study time series of surveys is the post-election cross-section survey. All the BES surveys have been based on probability samples representative of the electorate (in 1997, the resident adult population) of Great Britain (south of the Caledonian Canal, except in 1992 and 1997). Northern Ireland has always been excluded from the British Election Study. All the post-election cross-section surveys have been conducted by face-to-face interview. They have been noted for the high quality of their fieldwork and the richness of their data, especially that on the respondents’ social and occupational characteristics.

    The 1997 British Election Study Cross-Section Survey

    The 1997 British Post-election Cross-section survey was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (grant no. H552/255/003) and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, which again allowed its core funding of SCPR's British Social Attitudes survey series to be devoted to the BES series in election year. This Appendix also provides information about the Scottish Election Study (SES) and Ethnic Minority Study (EMS), additional components of the 1997 cross-section survey (see below). More detailed information about the cross-section survey design and fieldwork, including the SES and EMS, is presented in The 1997 British Election Studies: Technical Report (Thomson et al. 1998); both the full questionnaires and a comprehensive code book are available from the ESRC Data Archive at the University of Essex, as are the data files. Information is also available at

    The BES survey was designed to yield a representative sample of the population resident in private households in Britain aged 18 or over. Previous election studies have used the electoral register as the sampling frame. Evidence suggests that the coverage of the electoral register has declined over the last decade or so, and consequently the chances of bias in its coverage have increased. Concern about these inadequacies as well as substantive interest in the characteristics of people who are not registered but would be eligible to vote if they were registered, lead to the decision to change the sampling frame. The sample of addresses was drawn from the Postcode Address File (Lynn and Taylor 1995). In order to maintain the comparability of the BES time series, the presence or absence of each respondent on the electoral register was subsequently checked (see below).

    Sampling from the Postcode Address File involves a multi-stage design. First, any postal sectors with fewer than 500 delivery points (DPs) were grouped with another. The list of (grouped) sectors was then stratified on the basis of subregion (32 for England/Wales and five for Scotland), population density and SEG profile (percentage of household heads who are employer/managers). Some 218 postal sectors were selected with probability proportional to DP count: 164 in England and Wales, 54 in Scotland. Thirty DPs were sampled systematically from throughout each sector, giving 6,540 issued addresses: 4,920 in England and Wales and 1,620 in Scotland.

    At each issued address, the interviewer established the number of occupied dwelling units (DUs) and, where there were several, selected one DU at random for interview (using a Kish grid and random numbers generated separately for each serial number). At each (selected) DU the interviewer established the number of adults aged 18+ normally resident there, and selected one adult at random (using the same procedure as for selecting a DU). The unequal selection probabilities arising from these procedures, and the oversampling of Scotland, are taken into account by the weighting (see below).

    Two small-scale pretests of questions were carried out in October and December 1996. The pilot interviewers were personally debriefed by the research team.

    The survey, conducted by SCPR interviewers, consisted of a face-to-face interview and a self-completion supplement. The face-to-face interview was administered in 1997 for the first time using a lap-top computer. The use of computer-assisted personal interviewing or CAPI was introduced following methodological work by SCPR which established that the change should not introduce significant mode effects (Martin et al. 1993). This enabled the use of more complex filtering and question selection routines in 1997 than had hitherto usually been used. The face-to-face interview lasted on average 62 minutes (66 minutes in Scotland). The self-completion supplement, either collected by the interviewer or returned by post, was completed by 86% of respondents. The self-completion supplement was first introduced on the 1987 election study, and has been used at each study since then; it substantially increases the number of questions which can be asked.

    All interviewers working on the main fieldwork phase were personally briefed by members of the SCPR BES research team. In all, 222 interviewers worked on the survey (170 in England and Wales, and 52 in Scotland). Fieldwork for the survey began on 2 May; 74% was complete by the end of May, and 96% by the end of June; the remainder was completed by 1 August – mainly recalls on respondents who were unable or unwilling to be interviewed earlier.

    The names of some potential respondents who had been difficult to find at home, or had moved, or had refused, or had broken appointments, were reissued to interviewers (in most cases interviewers who had not made the initial calls) during the later phase of fieldwork.

    The Scottish Election Study

    The linked Scottish Election Study (SES) was funded by a separate ESRC grant (no. H552/255/004) to David McCrone, Alice Brown (University of Edinburgh), Paula Surridge (University of Aberdeen) and Katarina Thomson (SCPR). The SES consisted of, first, an over-sample in Scotland on the BES post-election cross-section survey in order to enable more detailed investigation of voting behaviour in Scotland, including analyses comparing subgroups within Scotland; and, secondly, approximately 40 extra questions with special reference to Scotland asked only of Scottish respondents.

    TABLE A.1 BES response rate

    With the booster sample, 882 productive interviews were achieved in Scotland, instead of the 270 or so Scottish interviews we would expect without sampling extra addresses. Thus whereas Scotland represents approximately 9% of the population of Great Britain, Scottish respondents make up 24% of the sample. The weighting scheme (see below) down-weights the Scottish over-sample to form a representative British sample.

    The Ethnic Minority Study

    The BES Ethnic Minority Study was conducted by CREST in collaboration with Shamit Saggar (Queen Mary and Westfield College, London). The ethnic minority extension was funded by the ESRC (grant no. R000/222/123) and the Commission for Racial Equality. The study consisted of a booster sample of ethnic minority members and approximately 40 extra questions as part of the face-to-face interview asked only of ethnic minority respondents (respondents who were part of the samples generated from the screening exercises – see below – were correspondingly given a shortened version of the self-completion questionnaire, omitting the CSES questions – see below). This was the first ethnic minority booster sample to the BES series, its purpose being to enable more detailed investigation of voting behaviour and political attitudes among ethnic minority members. The ethnic minority sample covered England and Wales only. The survey definition for eligible ethnic minority members was ‘black or of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin’. Other ethnic minorities were excluded from the booster sample as there would be insufficient numbers for separate analysis. The sample was generated from three sources:

    • Ethnic minority respondents who happened to be generated by the main BES sample (106 cases).
    • A large-scale screening exercise in areas of high ethnic minority concentration (430 cases).
    • Next-door screening at some sample points with high ethnic minority concentrations. (The screening was carried out at the two addresses immediately to the left and the two addresses immediately to the right of the original household.) (194 cases).

    The unequal selection probabilities arising from the three sample types are taken into account in the weighting. Table A.2 (below) shows the response rate of the two screening exercises.

    TABLE A.2 Ethnic minority study screening: response
    Questionnaire Design

    For the first time on the BES, the research team engaged in a formal consultation exercise with members of the BES user community – an extension of the customary informal consultation procedure. This was conducted in conjunction with the Election Studies Management and Advisory Committee (ESMAC) set up by the series’ principal funder, the ESRC. Members of the research team distinguished ‘core’ from ‘non-core’ survey items. BES users were invited to submit a case for the inclusion of questions or groups of questions, and these were evaluated by subject working groups comprising both members of the research team and members of the user community. A conference of invited users was held under the auspices of ESMAC on 4 June 1996, and the draft questionnaire was discussed at a session of the 1996 annual conference of the Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (EPOP) subgroup of the Political Studies Association (held in Sheffield 13–15 September 1996).

    The survey carried a split-half experiment on the administration of the customary question about respondents’ income. This question is conventionally asked in the BES using a show card on which appear income bands each denoted by a letter, and the respondent is asked to tell the interviewer the letter corresponding to his or her income. Refusal to answer the income question in the 1992 BES survey was found to be a strong predictor of drop-out from the British Election Panel Study (Taylor et al. 1996). In order to investigate the effect on response and subsequent panel attrition of different methods of administering the income question, a random half of the sample was administered the question in the conventional way; the other half was given a ballot form, asked to indicate their income band then to put the form in an envelope, seal it and return it to the interviewer. Variables are included on the data set for each version of the question separately and for the combined data.

    The self-completion questionnaire included a module of around 30 questions on the subject of attitudes towards democratic institutions and processes (see the documentation of the questionnaires) administered as part of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) programme. Around 30 countries are to administer a similar module on their respective national election study between 1996 and 1999, to enable cross-national comparisons to be made.

    Validation of Turnout and Registration

    As in 1987 and 1992, respondents’ reports of turnout at the 1997 election were checked against the official records (Swaddle and Heath 1989). The marked-up Electoral Register held at the Lord Chancellor's Office for a year after the general election shows which electors voted, or were issued with postal votes, and is available for public inspection. Corresponding information for respondents in Scotland was obtained from the Sherriffs’ Clerks. Supplementary checks of registration (but not turnout) were carried out on ordinary (that is, not marked-up) registers at the Office of National Statistics offices in Titchfield in July 1998.

    Because the 1997 BES used the PAF as its sampling frame, rather than the Electoral Register as in previous surveys in the series, the full sample includes some people who were not on the electoral register and thus not entitled to vote. In order to make the 1997 BES fully comparable to earlier surveys, a check was carried out against the Electoral Register on whether the respondent was on the register or not.1 For comparability with earlier BES surveys, the 1997 data can be weighted to exclude non-registered respondents. Analyses reported in this volume were carried out on data weighted in this way. Figures reported on in this volume use data based on the initial validation study; results from the supplementary registration study are included in the final data file.


    A weighting scheme has been devised to take account of differential selection probabilities (see Table A.3). In particular, the weights take account of two factors: 1) the Scottish over-sample and 2) unequal selection probabilities at the household level. (In brief, the PAF sample generated addresses with equal probability. However, since only one person was interviewed at each address, people in small households had a larger selection probability than people in large households.) The weights also use information about non-responding addresses to counterbalance the effect of non-response biases. The weights have been scaled to reflect the downweighting on the Scottish boost (hence the weighted sample size is radically smaller than the unweighted sample size). A separate file with Scottish cases only is also provided.

    Additional weights take account of the outcome of the Electoral Register checks to generate a sample of registered electors.

    Some members of the 1997 BES sample of course happen to be members of ethnic minorities; these cases are integral to the British cross-section survey. A separate ethnic minority file includes both these ethnic minority respondents from the cross-section sample and those sampled through the additional screening exercises. The ethnic minority file has its own weights which additionally take account of the differing selection probabilities of respondents from the different sample types (see Table A.4).

    Geographic Information

    The addresses of all respondents to the 1997 survey have been post-coded. Certain geographic information has been added to the survey data, such as constituency and ward name and number, and local authority identifiers.

    TABLE A.3 BES survey weighting
    TABLE A.4 Ethnic minority survey weighting
    The British Representation Study 1997

    The linked British Representation Study 1997 (BRS-97) involved a national survey of prospective parliamentary candidates and MPs from all major parties standing in the 1997 British general election. This is the second survey, following a similar study in 1992 (Norris and Lovenduski 1995). A battery of attitudinal items on the BRS was designed to be identical to those in the BES facilitating mass-elite comparisons.

    The research project was conducted under the direction of Pippa Norris (Harvard University) in collaboration with Joni Lovenduski (Southampton University), Anthony Heath (Nuffield College/CREST), Roger Jowell (Social and Community Planning Research/CREST) and John Curtice (Strathclyde University/CREST). The research was distributed and administered from the School of Economic and Social Studies at the University of East Anglia and funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

    The mail survey was sent to all parliamentary candidates selected by the main British parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP, Plaid Cymru, and Green) by 1 June 1996. The Labour and Conservative parties had chosen about 600 candidates at this stage, although other parties had selected fewer. The first wave of the survey was sent out, with an official covering letter from each party, from 18 June to 3 July 1996. A post-card reminder was sent out two weeks later, followed by a third wave with a complete questionnaire and reminder letter in mid to late July. In total 1,628 questionnaires were sent out and we received 999 replies, representing a response rate of 61.4%. The survey includes 178 incumbent British MPs and 821 other parliamentary candidates. In addition, we received 122 refusals (7.5%), usually from MPs who noted that as a matter of policy they never responded to any surveys. The response rate was evenly balanced between parties so that the survey reflects the composition of the 1997 House of Commons (see Table A.5). For more details see:

    Value and Issue Scales

    Many chapters use value scales designed to measure socialist-laissez-faire and libertarian-authoritarian values (see, for example, Tables 2.1 and 2.3), and also responses to six issue questions measured on 11-point scales.

    The socialist-laissez-faire value scale included the following six items with a 5-point agree/disagree response scale:

    • Ordinary people get their fair share of the nation's wealth.
    • There is one law for the rich and one for the poor.
    • There is no need for strong trade unions to protect employees’ working conditions and wages.
    • It is government's responsibility to provide a job for everyone who wants one.
    • Private enterprise is the best way to solve Britain's economic problems.
    • Major public services and industries ought to be in state ownership.
    TABLE A.5 BRS sample of British MPs and parliamentary candidates

    The libertarian-authoritarian value scale included the following six agree/disagree items:

    • Young people today don't have enough respect for traditional British values.
    • Censorship of films and magazines is necessary to uphold moral standards.
    • People in Britain should be more tolerant of those who lead unconventional lives.
    • Homosexual relations are always wrong.
    • People should be allowed to organize public meetings to protest against the government.
    • Even political parties which wish to overthrow democracy should not be banned.

    These items were also used in the 1992 British Candidate Study and the 1997 British Representation Study.

    The following six issue questions were asked about with an 11-point response scale, on which respondents were asked to place themselves and then each of the parties in turn (including in Scotland, the SNP).

    Jobs v. Prices Scale

    Some people feel that getting people back to work should be the government's top priority. These people would put themselves in box 1. Other people feel that keeping prices down should be the government's top priority. These people would put themselves in box 11. Other people have views in-between: ‘Using the following scales … where would you place your view?’

    Taxation and Spending Scale

    Some people feel that government should put up taxes a lot and spend much more on health and social services (1). These people would put themselves in box 1. Other people feel that government should cut taxes a lot and spend much less on health and social services. These people would put themselves in box 11. Other people have views in-between: Using the following scale … Where would you place your view?

    Privatization and Nationalization Scale

    Some people feel that government should nationalize many more private companies. These people would put themselves in box 1. Other people feel that government should sell off many more nationalized industries. These people would put themselves in box 11. Other people have views somewhere in-between: Using the following scale … Where would you place your view?

    Redistribution Scale

    Some people feel that government should make much greater efforts to make people's incomes more equal. These people would put themselves in Box A. Other people feel that government should be much less concerned about how equal people's incomes are. These people would put themselves in Box K. And other people have views somewhere in-between. Using the following scale … Where would you place your view?

    EU Scale

    Some people feel Britain should do all it can to unite fully with the European Union. These people would put themselves in box 1. Other people feel that Britain should do all it can to protect its independence from the European Union. These people would put themselves in box 11. Other people have views somewhere in-between: Using the following scale … Where would you place your view?

    Women's Rights Scale

    Recently there has been discussion about women's rights. Some people feel that women should have an equal role with men in running business, industry and government. These people would put themselves in box 1. Other people feel that a woman's role is in the home. These people would put themselves in box 11. Other people have views somewhere in-between. Using the following scale … Where would you place your view?

    In addition, the survey included the 11-point left-right scale, on which respondents were asked to place themselves and then each of the parties in turn (including in Scotland, the SNP, and in Wales, Plaid Cymru).

    Left-Right Scale

    In politics people sometimes talk of left and right: Using the following scale, where 1 means left and 11 means right, where would you place yourself …?


    1. In order to make the check as complete as possible, the survey collected not only the ‘issued address’, but also asked the respondent 1) whether there was another address where he or she thought he or she was on the register and 2) where he or she had been living in October 1996 (the qualifying date for the 1997 registers). Thus in some cases up to three addresses were checked.


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